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Former deputy seeks jury trial in case accusing OC Sheriff’s Department policies of allowing contraband and sex in jail

SANTA ANA – Three years after being acquitted of bribery charges, a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy is still fighting his former employer through an ongoing civil lawsuit accusing the agency of turning a blind eye to polices resulting in contraband and sexual liaisons behind bars.
David Cass is seeking a jury trial for an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit filed in 2015 that alleges that Sheriff’s Department higher-ups retaliated against him when he attempted to blow the whistle on jail policies, and wrongfully terminated his employment.
An Orange County judge recently scheduled a May trial date.
Attorney Garo Khajadourian, who is representing Cass, said his client isn’t looking for a financial windfall but is instead trying to get back lost wages. Despite being acquitted of criminal charges, Cass was unable to find work in Orange County, and had to move to Norther California to find a private-security job, his attorney said.
“He loved serving as a sheriff (deputy),” Khajadourian said. “This guy was a Marine, and he loves law enforcement.”
The defense attorney acknowledged that a key issue at trial will be whether Cass was forced out of the department, as he alleges in the lawsuit, or whether he resigned on his own, as the department’s attorneys contend.
Jaimee Blashaw, a sheriff’s spokeswoman, said Cass was hired in 2005, the subject of a criminal investigation, and “voluntarily separated” from the department in 2013. She declined further comment, citing pending litigation.
Attorneys for the county and the Sheriff’s Department did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that Cass first alerted co-workers and his supervisors of his concerns while working as a guard at the Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana. According to the lawsuit, he was concerned that “legal runners” who carried documents to and from inmates on behalf of attorneys and court officials were being allowed to enter the jail without being searched.
The department at the time considered the runners agents of the court, and the documents they carried protected by attorney-client privilege, the lawsuit alleges. As a result, the runners were allowed to meet with inmates outside of normal jailhouse visiting hours, according to the suit, and were provided a private visiting area in a soundproof location to carry out the meetings.
Cass was also concerned about a department policy that barred male deputies from searching female visitors, according to the lawsuit, as well as rules forcing deputies to remain at their duty station unless they were with another officer.
“In fact, deputies were either abandoning their posts or permitting female visitors to enter un-searched,” the lawsuit alleges. “Legal runners were meeting privately with inmates to exchange contraband or engage in sexual activity without fear of detection.”
Cass’ concerns were ignored by his co-workers and superiors, the lawsuit alleges, who ultimately began a campaign of “harassment, unfair treatment and lies” to stop him from speaking out.
The alleged harassment campaign culminated with Cass being charged with taking bribes from Ha Nguyen, the girlfriend and later wife of convicted killer Stephenson Kim while he was awaiting trial.
Prosecutors alleged that Cass allowed Nguyen, a legal runner, to take contraband to her husband inside the jail. Prosecutors also said that Nguyen and Kim had sexual encounters in the jail, which they recorded with a cell phone.
A jury in 2014 acquitted Cass of one bribery charge, and split on a second bribery count as well as a charge of being an accessory after the fact to drug smuggling. A judge later dismissed the remaining charges, preventing prosecutors from seeking a retrial. In announcing his decision, the judge noted that “no reasonable trier of fact” could find Cass guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Attorneys for the county have denied the allegations in court filings, and have noted that Cass failed in his lawsuit to specify when he warned his higher-ups about his concerns, or when he was allegedly told of his pending termination.
 
Source: Oc Register

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